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Rick Remender Talks TOKYO GHOST and Focusing on Creator-Owned Comics

Remender on switching to creator-owned comics, "It’s the happiest point in my career."

Recently Rick Remender has made it known he's going to shift his focus on his creator-owned books. We're already enjoying books like DEADLY CLASS, BLACK SCIENCE, and LOW over at Image. On September 16, we'll get his next book, TOKYO GHOST with Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth.

We got the chance to check out TOKYO GHOST and talked to Rick about the series, working with Sean and Matt, and doing creator-owned books.

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COMIC VINE: How would you describe TOKYO GHOST?

RICK REMENDER: TOKYO GHOST is a love story about Constable Led Dent and his sidekick Debbie Decay. They are the heavy hand of the law in the new Isles of Los Angeles, about seventy years from now. They work for the Flack World Corporation, which rules the city because they provide the entertainment and technology. This is how the leaders of the world are decided in the not too distant future.

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The story, in terms of what we’re examining, is a good heady look at our current addiction crisis with out technology and devices and iPads. It takes that and exponentially magnifies it to get a view where this is going to head to in the next fifty, sixty, seventy years This is what it’s going to do to us as a society in terms of allowing us to be insulated in our own little self-reflecting bubbles while the world collapses around us. We are in a virtual reality program watching rolling green hills and unicorns and rainbows. Beyond that, it’s a look at the counterweight of the Isle of Los Angeles, which is going to be the garden nation of Tokyo. Which is surrounded by an electro-magnetic pulse, an EMP, that prevents any technology from operating anywhere in Tokyo.

As we bounce between these two cities and get a look at these two different things, we will use that to examine this character, Led Dent, who’s addicted to technology to the point of no longer being cognitive of what he does everyday, which is pretty awful. His long time girlfriend, Debbie Decay, who plays basically the Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder, trying to direct him to making the right decisions and doing the right things, all the while seeing his receded and disappear into nothing. You’ll see just how intense the technological addiction can be, and how much worse I think and Sean thinks it’s going to get, coupled with the inevitable co-dependence of the person who loves someone who’s addicted to tech and lost in it and how far she’ll go to save and regain the man she loves.

CV: Besides the commentary and reflection on today’s society, it looks like we’ll have quite a bit of action and violence?

REMENDER: Well sure. [laughs] Certainly there will be. There’s a lot of my desire to make the kinds of It’s a strange brew of Blade Runner, RoboCop, Judge Dredd, and 13 Assassins. It’s a very odd mix. When you see what each of the elements in the story represents, as we move through issue by issue, everything that’s set up in the first issue continues to play a role in each issue. The first ten issues of this are already written and tightly outlined. It’s basically the first ten issues are like one big movie. As you see what the results are of these things we’ve set up in the first issue, as they all unravel, I think people will be quite surprised at where it goes. It’s a very chaotic story, much like life tends to be, in terms of the zigs and zags and the unpredictability of it all. It should leave people feeling uneasy and off balanced in terms of the characters and what’s going to happen to them.

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CV: You mentioned having the first ten issues written. You’ve guys have been working on this for about a year. How far along are you with the art and all?

REMENDER: I think Sean’s working on issue five right now.

CV: How did you come together on this with Sean and Matt? What was the creation process?

REMENDER: It’s entirely collaborative. As I hope most of my creator-owned books will be. They all are to varying degrees depending on the artist’s interest in talking on the phone and making up ideas. Sean and I had commicated online as our careers grew since 2005, 2006, 2007. The planets never aligned for us to work together. Around that time we started seeing each other at comic book conventions and became friends.

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I think Sean and I have a lot in common. We sort of just hit it off. It was very natural. As that friendship grew, we talked here and there about maybe doing a book one day. He looked over his schedule at one point and saw there was a huge chunk that he could potentially dedicate to launching a new book and building it up. It’s been about two years, since 2013, we started talking. I sent him an idea. He said, “What about this?” I said, “What about that?” We literally spent a year talking on the phone and tweaking, adjusting and fine tuning this. Step by step, it would grow and expand or change. It would morph. Every time it morphed, we’d still have some of the original pieces left—the first idea or the second idea.

What we have by the end of it, by the time I wrote the final outline about six or seven months ago, what we have is this incredibly imaginative, utterly unique story that at its core is a love story while also being an examination on our addiction to technology. Because of the way Sean and I codeveloped this thing, I don’t think anybody will have any idea what we have coming issue by issue. I think it’ll all be surprising and wonderful. It’s the work of his career, no question about that. Matt Hollingsworth couldn’t be more on target. I just got another batch of pages from them and it’s just…it’s astounding when you see the first couple of issues. I think people will really be taken by it. It’s absolutely some of the very best comic book art in the industry now. Maybe forever. Maybe in the history of the wooooorld

CV: I’ll agree. How much of the world in 2089 do you guys have mapped out? Like with locations and characters that we might see later on?

REMENDER: We know what’s going on in various regions. We know where most of the refugees from Tokyo are coming from. Beyond that, I think too much world building becomes sort of masturbatory and you end up boring people when you tell them, “Well over here in South America is where Jimbo Jones grew his corn plantation that feeds the world.” I just don’t think people give a shit. We delve the stuff out very very sparingly but ultimately the two cities that we’re worried about and where we spend most of our time to develop are the Isle of Los Angeles and the garden nation of Tokyo. Beyond that, as the series progresses, if we do explore other places and other worlds, then we’ll get to that. For now, those are the two places where we spend our time.

CV: What’s it like seeing the world that was in your mind come alive with Murphy’s art?

REMENDER: It’s a ridiculous treat. His storytelling is spot on. The character designs are perfect. The world building that he does is beyond what I expected. A lot of this, I’ll try to write to his strengths. There’s a deathrace sequence in the first issue. I know that very few people can draw cars and action in cars as well as Sean. That was something as I was writing the script, I cooked that up, thinking of his strengths. Even knowing his strengths, those pages came back better than I could’ve ever dreamed. Then Hollingsworth takes it to the next step. Somehow it gets even better. Matt’s the very best. When you see those guys mixed together in a book like this where it’s visually shifting so much in so many different places, it’s a treat to behold. I’m incredibly spoiled when I open my inbox with the pages that come in from Sean or Matteo [Scalera] or Greg Tocchini or Wes [Craig] or any of the number of people I’m working with.

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CV: Yeah. All of your books are great looking. What are some of your favorite things about this book?

REMENDER: With all of the books that I do, I try to open up with something that’s fast and exciting while peppering in, on narration, two stories at once. Because comic book real estate is valuable and you only have so many pages to tell a story, this enables me to tell basically two stories. I think it works in TOKYO GHOST #1 as well as it’s ever worked for me. I couldn’t be more excited about the end results. Most of the time when I’m done with a book I endlessly just criticize it. I had extra time on this to rewrite the final dialogue. I feel wonderful about it. I couldn’t be more excited. It’s the kind of comic book that I want to read.

Being able to do the kind of comic book that isn’t really done anymore. Like I said, it’s a kind of love letter to Blade Runner, Judge Dredd, Akira, RoboCop, that have that dystopic apocalyptic future that isn’t super unreasonable at this point and still have a good dollop of humor and makes fun of a lot stuff and makes fun of itself. Just to be able to go nuts and see somebody like Sean and Matt bring it all together the way that they have. In terms what you’re going to see in the first issue, it’s a visual masterpiece. When you see Sean render the Hollywood sign half underwater and the new Los Angeles around it or when you see the deathraces, I think people will be really blown away. It’s…pretty.

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CV: Are you feeling rejuvenated taking this time to focus on creator-owned projects?

REMENDER: Yeah. I feel like I needed to break loose and do my own thing for a while and just follow my bliss. Whatever crazy idea that comes to me, I can bounce it off an artist to see if it becomes worthwhile and then flesh it out. And then somehow execute it. My creator owned books are the ones that best represent my sensibility and are the stories I’d like to write. It’s great to be in a position where people are buying creator owned books and responding well to them. It’s great to be able to do that and be able to make a living off it. It’s the happiest point in my career. I’m very very fortunate right now.

CV: What will the release schedule be like and are you going to continue DEADLY CLASS, BLACK SCIENCE, and LOW? Will you do an arc, take some time off, continue?

REMENDER: Yeah, that’s the plan. At this point, in order to keep the same artist working on the same book, the plan is to have a couple two or three months off between every arc. This will enable us not to ever have a fill in by somebody else. We’ll be able to keep the book consistent. Over time, I think it’s something people are hungry for. Ultimately it’ll make the book read better when collected in a big hardcover later. Think how wonderful it is to achieve that kind of consistency. On my other books, it’s always been the same artists drawing the books. The books are both of us. It doesn’t feel like those books could be those books without those guys drawing it. The art is such a huge part of it. On TOKYO GHOST, the plan for now is to keep going and probably take a little jump between arcs. That’s when we put out the trades and all that sort of fun stuff.

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CV: How long is the first arc going to be?

REMENDER: The first story is about ten issues. We’ll probably go five issues and take a few months off and then go back for another five.

TOKYO GHOST #1 is on sale September 16. Let your comic shop know immediately to order you a copy. You won't want to miss this book.